Last month, in partnership with Bayt.com, Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks released an innovative new program to help youth in Gaza launch startups! The Entrepreneurs in Residence program is the first of its kind in Palestine, and as far as we know, in the Arab world.
How the idea was born
The idea came about through a conversation last year with Mary Grove, the head of Google for Entrepreneurs. Mary pointed out that in developed startup markets like the United States and London, youth from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot take the risk of launching a startup. Because their families have no savings, they choose long-term, stable employment. As a result, the world never finds out what innovative ideas they could have given birth to if they had had the resources to launch a startup. Mary pointed us to models such as Entrepreneur First in London, which funds early stage startup talent.
Our potential entrepreneurs in Gaza face the same problem. Many teams cannot even afford the cost of transportation to our co-working hub each day, let alone pay a membership fee, which most co-working spaces charge. Teams also often fall apart before they are investable because many team members secure and prioritize short-term employment in order to support their families. According to a new report from The World Bank, the overall unemployment rate in Gaza is more than 40 percent, and the youth unemployment is over 60 percent, the highest in the region.
Partnering with Bayt.com
We are thus thrilled to unveil our first-ever Entrepreneurs in Residence program. Two of our top startup teams in incubation will receive modest stipends ($400/month for three startup team members) to develop their startup ideas for six months! This will give them the chance to build and validate their prototype before presenting to investors
Bayt.com generously agreed to sponsor these stipends during our recent www.gazastarts.com crowdfunding campaign. Thank you, Bayt.com! This fantastic company (run by an incredible entrepreneur) is the top employment website in the Middle East. Bayt.com believes in the power of jobs to change people’s lives.
By “hiring” teams to launch startups we give immediate career opportunities to youth in an environment where very few jobs exist. We also give them the chance to work on an idea that could potentially turn into a truly successful business.
Both partners recognize that only a small number of startups will launch successfully and create jobs. However, each startup team that goes through Gaza Sky Geeks’ incubation will receive one of the top professional development experiences of their lives.
“This is a really exciting partnership for Bayt.com,” said Rabea Ataya, founding CEO, Bayt.com “The desire for entrepreneurship in the region is overwhelming. According to Bayt.com research, 73% of millennials say that they would prefer to have their own business than be employed. Initiatives like Gaza Sky Geeks show that young people in the Arab world now want to build their own futures and to have a fair chance to compete. This partnership is perfectly aligned with our mission at Bayt.com to empower people with the tools and information to build a better life, and we’re really excited to mentor and work with the teams.”
Bayt.com is offering much more than funding in this partnership. As a successful company that has itself incubated several startups, Bayt.com’s many resources include a smart experienced team across the region. Each team sponsored by Bayt.com will also receive a buddy at Bayt.com and access to many other mentors at the organization.
More updates coming soon!
We’ll share updates on the selected teams and their progress in future blog posts. We at Gaza Sky Geeks and Bayt.com are also entrepreneurs: We are testing out the Entrepreneurs in Residence model and will validate whether or not it meets Gaza’s startup ecosystem needs!
And… Google for Entrepreneurs is at it too!
Soon after Bayt.com and Gaza Sky Geeks forged this partnership, Mary Grove’s team at Google for Entrepreneurs announced they were launching a similar program to support Black and Latino entrepreneurs in the United States with a one-year stipend, office space and mentorship as part of their NextWave initiative. Learn more here.
Together, we are all bringing the world’s diverse talent to the fast-paced, innovative tech sector. We’re excited to see the results. Although ultimately the entrepreneurs themselves will do the hardest work, it is our job to find creative ways to make the startup sector accessible to people from all walks of life.